Many disabled people are currently living in fear since the welfare reform bill became law. Some benefits are due to be replaced with stringent new criteria which mean that many disabled people will no longer qualify for support. With social services cutbacks many will be left with no help whatsoever.
I am not quite in that position. I am among what the government likes to call "the most vulnerable" (a term I personally hate and would never use). Currently in receipt of the highest levels of disability benefits and having easily passed the new dreaded draconian Work Capability Assessment I am in the support group of what is called ESA and am not expected to be able to work again. Having seen the criteria for the new benefits it is clear that even being as harsh as possible, I should easily qualify for the highest rates of these too.
With the government having promised that the reforms will see more support diverted to the "most vulnerable in our society", you would therefore think I have nothing to fear.
You couldn't be more wrong.
I currently live independently.
As I live alone I receive an extra payment called SDP (severe disability payment) which helps cover the extra costs of care and disability.
However a large portion of this and my other benefits goes to social services and in return I receive direct payments, money with which I employ carers to help me with every day tasks such as getting dressed, washed, eating, shopping, etc.
My LHA (Local Housing Allowance) is upgraded to a 2 bedroom rate so that carers or family can stay when my illness is so bad that someone needs to stay overnight.
My flat was adapted 8 years ago so that it is wheelchair friendly.
When the changes start coming in next year, all this will go.
a) SDP is being abolished completely.
b) The 2 bedroom allowance is no longer guaranteed.
c) I will continue to have to pay most of my benefits towards my care. I cannot manage without it.
I calculate that I will be around £80 per week worse off (around half from SDP and half from LHA).
At first I might be ok. Apparently there will be a transitional protection as far as SDP goes, which means I will only be £40 worse off and might be able to get that together somehow. As time goes on however, that will be eroded by inflation and benefit freezes.
The second big issue is : I cannot manage without a second bedroom.
Even if I could, there are no wheelchair friendly 1 bedroom flats available for rent privately (I've been looking). As far as social housing goes there is little wheelchair accessible housing available and in any case I am not allowed a bungalow until I am 50, ie in 17 years time!
So I either have to go into non wheelchair accessible accommodation without provision for my carer or go bankrupt!
The only other solution is for me to go into a care home at the ripe old age of 35. Ironically this will cost far more than if I were to stay put and continued to be paid benefits.
Before the election David Cameron said "If you are sick, disabled, frail, vulnerable, or the poorest in society you have nothing to fear"
Sir, please look me in the eye and say that now.
EDIT: On April 20th the following article was published explaining that cuts in Worcestershire are to change social serices policy and would henceforth push disabled people into care homes. I rest my case.